ForeverMissed
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Share a special moment from Bill's life.

Video of Bill and Gwen speaking about Montserrat and Slough

Shared by Veralyn Alleyne on July 24, 2021
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twJqkinkr-o&t=4s
Click on link above for an interview excerpt where Gwen & Bill Bramble talk about the Irish influences on Montserrat and why they were forced to leave the island when the Soufrière Hills volcano erupted. Although the change was forced upon them, they have accepted and embraced their new life in Slough.

Taken from: Afro-Irish Links - Interviews with people from Slough
We do not have the rights to this video.

Humble Beginnings

Shared by Veralyn Alleyne on July 20, 2021
On November 3rd, 1940 on the beautiful Caribbean island of Montserrat, Bilton Lloyd Bramble slipped into the life of the late Mary Bramble Isaac (Sister) and George Joseph Thomas (Joe Muscle).

Granny often said that “Bill”, as he was affectionately called, was her child of no pain – her only child born with no labour or birthing pain.

Dad spent his earliest years in Montserrat. As a child, one of his favourite hymns was the “The Lord’s My Shepherd”, which my grandmother said that he would often sing while doing his chores around the home.

As often happened, my grandmother spent several years working in Aruba.

During the years Granny was away, Dad often worked with his Aunt Looky, farming produce, and too often missed out on his early schooling.

A few years later, Granny moved to St. Kitts where she married Leonard Isaac and set up roots.

Education

Shared by Veralyn Alleyne on July 20, 2021
In 1972, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.

He also self-educated. He constantly read… there were always books around his bed and he would often be in bed by 6pm with a book in his hand.

I remember him and Mom coming to visit us in Canada, and he walked out of customs with the heaviest carry-on bag in his hand.

I tried imagining what could be in the bag… coconut tarts, fried fish, black cake, mangoes… I soon learned that the bag was full of books – big heavy books that most people wouldn’t want to take outside of the home, never mind on an aircraft. To him it was important to have a stack with him – aircraft weight limit or not.

"Best Teacher Ever" - Natural-Born and Avid Educator

Shared by Veralyn Alleyne on July 20, 2021
Dad was a natural-born educator.

His first job after finishing 6th Form, was as a teacher at the Basseterre Senior High School in St. Kitts. Due to his love for teaching and coaching others to excel, and a determination to build up and give back to fellow Kittitians and Montserratians, he often taught extra classes.

In St. Kitts, he was instrumental in working with Washington Archibald to start evening classes. The students excelled and gained certificates from City and Guilds College and GCE certificates from the University of London.

He also taught at the Montserrat Secondary School.

In Montserrat, he collaborated with one of his closest friends and business partners, the late Dr. George Irish, to establish and teach at The Academy of Arts and Commerce, a school for students who had graduated without O’ Level qualifications. They also arranged for sponsorship for their students.

His dream was to offer hope to children and young people that may not have another chance – to give everyone an equal chance or access to education.

Many of these past students are today in notable professions including accounting, business, medicine and law.

Up to today, as many past students have reached out to us in recent weeks, many of his former students still say that he “was the best teacher that they ever had”.

A close family friend at the tender age of 5, accompanied her mother to accounting classes being taught by my father. She is now an accounting professor at a university in the United States. I overheard her telling my father that her love of accounting was born while attending those classes that he taught when she was a little girl, 5 years old. He seemed surprised and humbled and asked “You were listening?” With a laugh, she replied – ”Yes I was, and I developed a love for the subject from that age”.

A humble person, Dad almost never spoke about the accolades he received or all the people that he helped.

"Son-of-the Soil" and Trailblazer

Shared by Veralyn Alleyne on July 20, 2021
He joined the St Kitts-Nevis Government owned radio station “ZIZ” as programmer assistant and was trained at the BBC in London, England.

He was there at the same time with Sir Trevor McDonald. This was during the 1960s, a time when classes at the BBC were segregated based on race.

Despite this and other obstacles such as being forced to sit apart from the white students attending the same courses, Dad and Sir Trevor both excelled above their counterparts and graduated head of the class.

After completing his studies, Dad returned to St. Kitts, while Sir Trevor continued to work for the BBC.

On returning to ZIZ, Dad held several managerial positions. He put in place many programs – some of which are still on the air today.

After completing his Accounting degree at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica in 1972, upon returning to St. Kitts, he became Chief Accountant in the Sugar Rescue Operation and National Agricultural Corporation.

Then in 1978 he answered a call from his native island of Montserrat, to be the manager of the Development Finance Corporation. His response to this call was, and I quote:I couldn’t feel better. I am happy to be able to come home before I am grey to give some of my training and experience in the development process of my native land. Given the scarcity of natural resources, Montserrat is making a good effort to develop and it is only reasonable that sons of the soil should play their part.”

One of Dad’s other notable ventures was as President of the Montserrat Allied Workers Union.

I remember being awestruck when he had the audacity to actually lead the water and electrical workers in a strike for better pay and benefits. Once again, he was looking out for the ordinary person, making sure everyone had an equal and fair chance to a decent life. After the strike, these companies were among the most desirable places of work.

I admired that his ethic was also applied to the way he treated his staff.

While managing at the Montserrat Water Authority, he held high expectations and standards for staff. Those expectations were tempered with paying well for work well done and being considerate for their needs.

So, when long hard hours of work were required to ensure water supply, he would order meals for the staff. A very small gesture – but it sent the message “I see and appreciate your efforts”.  

Some of his other ventures included:
  • Montserrat’s representative on the Board of Directors of the East Caribbean Central Bank
  • An accounting “firm” – and I say “firm” with a smile as he was often paid “in-kind” for work performed. I recall going to a particular grocery store in Montserrat with Mom every Friday for several weeks to “purchase” groceries in exchange for “services rendered”.
  • Accountant at the St Kitts Sugar Manufacturer Corporation
  • Co-founder and operator of B&I Bakery in Montserrat
  • Ran for politics
  • Sergeant Major in the St Kitts-Nevis Defence Force
A couple of trailblazing notables:
  • For the corporate government roles - he was often the first local person – the first Black person – to hold these positions. Traditionally, these positions were reserved for ex-patriates from England, Canada or the United States. He played a role in breaking that trend by showing that the work could be done just as good – and often better and with the love and care you would not find in someone with no vested interest – by “sons of the soil”.
  • My father is one of very few people I know from that generation, to change and pivot throughout their career. He was never afraid to take on new challenges, learn and grow.

Always a Friend ... Never A Stranger

Shared by Veralyn Alleyne on July 20, 2021
Mom always said – “your father has never met a stranger”.

Our dad was a very kind, loving and friendly person.  He would sit beside you as someone he had never met – for most of us a stranger - and by the time he left, you were a friend.

Walking with him in St Kitts or Montserrat – didn’t make a difference - everyone knew and loved him. Every second step - he had to stop and shake somebody’s hand and have a chat. Then he would say “that’s my good friend so and so…”. Take a look at the picture on the side - Mom's patiently waiting (years of practice :) ) while Dad is speaking to someone.

Add to this, the “endless” family connections in Montserrat!! He was constantly trying to identify the most remote familial relationships, and after a while I became convinced that we must be related to almost the entire island.

His friendliness continued while abroad.

On trips to the mall, he would ask to find a seat - normally close to KFC or the “Man with the glasses” as he affectionately called it - and without fail, he would have a couple of people speaking to him when we returned.

One time we visited a theme park and I noticed a man who looked like he may be from the Middle East. He was kind of wandering around with subtle glances in our direction… kind of like he wanted something. I stepped away for a couple of minutes. When I returned, this man was introducing himself to Dad, and saying he was from the United Arab Emirates.

This struck me… what is it that would make someone from half-way across the world select my father out of the thousands of people in the park that day, and hang around to speak to him?

Patriarch of the Bramble-Isaac Family

Shared by Veralyn Alleyne on July 20, 2021
Despite this extensive work or career history, Dad was extremely family oriented and from very early in life, the patriarch of the Bramble-Isaac family.

Dad had 11 sisters and brothers and several adopted siblings. He was the oldest of his mother’s 6 children, and even with his step-father around, at times was responsible for his siblings from: up-keep through to discipline.

In the last few days of his life, my Aunt Avril shared some of her earliest memories of my father. She said, “he was more than a brother to me. He was a father to me. He named me and he made sure I always had what I needed. Sometimes when Mama couldn’t buy our books or uniforms for school and my father would say he had no money, your father bought books, pencils, uniforms, socks, shoes or whatever I needed for school. He didn’t have to do it.”

As you will hear or read in some of his tributes, he was also a father figure for many of his nieces and nephews.

So many have come forward to share in recent weeks, about how he has played a significant role in their lives – from providing advice and guidance, to support in various ways. It has been truly heart warming to hear the stories.

Family Life

Shared by Veralyn Alleyne on July 20, 2021
In November 1965, Dad met Gwen Dyer… a fellow Montserratian who had also immigrated to St. Kitts as a child.

I am not sure if it’s their similar history, but they very quickly bonded and by December, he TOLD her (not asked) that he was going to marry her. In April 1966, they married.

It was very normal to hear him say “I love you” to Mom, and to hug and kiss her whenever he was around. I guess this is the secret to their marriage, that survived for 55-years, 4 countries, including, St. Kitts twice, Jamaica, Montserrat, and finally the UK, numerous jobs, business ventures, volcano, more than 10 houses, and all the other ups and downs that go with love and marriage.

Dad had 5 children: Christopher who resides in France, Anthea and Brian who reside in St. Kitts, and Lloyda and Veralyn (myself) residing in Canada.

He also had 2 sons-in-law, Glenroy and Steve.

Dad was very affectionate and would always hug and kiss us in parting. I remember as a small child in St. Kitts, hearing a teacher comment that he was the only father kissing his children goodbye in the morning.

He was extremely protective of his girls. Teachers took care because they didn’t want to hear from Mr. Bramble.

He was strict and wanted to know where we were and who our friends were. We were always told, “you are known by the company you keep. Choose wisely.” And if we didn’t – we would hear about it.

As a teenager, I sometimes found his over-protectiveness, frustrating. As I grew older and left home, I came to recognize it was done out of love and it protected us from the world.

Dad also stressed to us girls the importance of being strong and independent. In addition to learning traditional female roles like cooking, cleaning, ironing, etc., he insisted that we had to learn how to drive, and most importantly, we had to be educated.

He was determined that we should never be dependent on others. Just in case we did not end up with caring men in our lives, we should be able to paddle our own canoes.

He also stressed that we learn to control our emotions. I don’t know how many times I heard “DON’T CRY”. It was kind of hard growing up with this type of discipline, but, having a tough father to deal with, helped prepare me to deal with all types of personalities – critical for a lot of the work that I do now.

Chris and Brian were my father’s pride. He would speak about “My Sons” with such pride that at times I wished I was one of his precious sons.

Dad had 13 grand-children and 2 beautiful great-grand daughters. Like a typical grand father, he enjoyed spoiling his grandkids and making sure that they had what they needed.

Power in the Blood

Shared by Veralyn Alleyne on July 20, 2021
Dad believed in God. He served in various functions from former lay-Preacher in the Methodist church, to elder in the Seventh-Day Adventist church and teacher at Shiloh Pentecostal Church.

From an early age, he taught us to read the Bible and would hold family worship with us. We were expected to attend church regularly and participate in the various programs, and even after I left home, for years he would call and ask “did you go to church? You have to pray and stay close to God.”

My Aunt Ada recently told us the story that the night when Dad joined the Adventist church, the hymn “There is Power in the Blood” was sung repeatedly. The next day, while taking a bath, the family listened while he belted out “There is Power, Power, Power in the Blood of Bill Bramble!!”.

I believe God heard that prayer and did manifest his love and power through the man known as “Bill Bramble”.

Old Soldiers Never Die… They Only Fade Away

Shared by Veralyn Alleyne on July 20, 2021
As a former Sergeant-Major in the St. Kitts-Nevis Defence Force, one of Dad’s favourite phrases and greetings for former soldiers was: “Old soldiers never die, they only fade away”.

Dad, on June 25th 2021 your earthly body faded away… but your essence, spirit and love will forever remain in our hearts.

May you rest in eternal peace until we meet again on that bright and glorious morning.

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